The National Council (NC) Elections held on 29th January 2008 was the first parliamentary elections in Bhutan. It was the first stage in the establishment of Bhutan’s Parliament, and its transition into a young democracy.
The elections, at the time, saw NC candidates and voters not entirely clear on the mandates of the upper house, but by all measures, it was the first nationwide national election success.
According to the book, Drukyul Decides, the NC Elections in 2008 had a total of 312,502 registered voters, out of which, only165, 962 voted, leading to a total voter turnout of 53 percent. Of this 4,742 votes were cast through the postal ballot.
52 candidates had taken part in the 2008 NC Elections for the 20 seats in the National Council. Gasa, Haa and Lhuentse saw just one candidate each, while other dzongkhags like, Dagana, Mongar, Samtse and Trashiyangtse had four candidates each.
Of the total NC candidates in 2008, 46 were men and 6 were women. In terms of academic achievement, 35 candidates had a bachelor’s degree, 16 had master’s degree and one had a Ph.D. Thimphu, Zhemgang, Chhukha and Wangdue districts elected female NC representatives. Of the 52 candidates, 16 male and 4 female candidates were elected to the NC.
On 29th April 2008, Namgay Penjore of Punakha was elected as the NC Chairperson winning 13 out of 25 votes cast.
NC Elections in 2008 saw Gasa with the lowest registered voters at 1,543 voters, and the lowest votes were counted in the dzongkhag as well. The highest registered voters at 33,542 was recorded in Trashigang, however, the highest votes were cast in Samtse at 19,529 votes.
The dzongkhag with the highest voter turnout was Paro at 65% and the lowest voter turnout was in Lhuentse at 34%.
Pema Lhamo from Zhemgang won with the highest percentage of votes, getting 73% of the votes cast in the dzongkhag. In terms of actual votes, Jigme Rinzin from Pemagatshel, won by the highest margin of votes with 3,035 votes.
The book, Drukyul Decides notes that there was a general tendency for voters to vote for candidates from their own gewogs. Of the 52 candidates contesting in 2008, 47 candidates won from their own gewogs.
The other feature was that voters generally preferred to vote overwhelmingly for one candidate. This voting pattern showed political consensus among voters to vote for just one candidate. This was apparent in Mongar, Chukha and Pemagatshel.
On the other hand, voters in Paro, Samtse, Sarpang and Trashigang showed that they were divided on the candidates as votes were thinly spread.
The NC Elections in 2008 was conducted in 861 polling stations, with 4,495 election officers, 20 chief election coordinators, 34 deputy chief election coordinators, 47 national observers, 20 returning officers, 30 assistant returning officers, 724 presiding officers, 2,172 polling officers and 1,448 polling assistants, attending to the elections.